What is broccoli?
A favourite with children, the bright green clusters of broccoli florets covered in a layer of grated Gruyère cheese is the essence of a cosy winter’s night. The delicate flavour of broccoli is similar to cauliflower, making it an excellent side dish for those reluctant to eat vegetables.
Broccoli has been around for over 2000 years. Cultivated by the Italians in Venice in the 16th century, it also appeared in England in the mid-18th century. Italian immigrants introduced broccoli to the USA in the 1920s, and those who came to Australia helped to increase its popularity here.
To showcase the ease of cooking with this vegetable, toast almonds in a pan and toss with hot cooked broccoli and crispy bacon.
In Australia, broccoli is not sold by variety. This vegetable has large blue-green clusters of florets (flower buds), surrounded by leaves that sprout from a thick stalk. When cut from the plant, a stalk of broccoli looks a little like a miniature tree.
The most common types that are grown are the Marathon and Greenbelt varieties. The Cathedral variety has small, light-green florets that look like pine cones.
Why broccoli is good to eat
Broccoli is very high in vitamin C. Eating 100 g of cooked broccoli provides 30 mg of vitamin C, which is well over your daily requirement.
It is also a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and beta-carotene (a compound that the body converts to vitamin A).
Broccoli contains high levels of a compound called sulforaphane – researchers are testing to see if this compound will help fight cancer in humans.
Energy – 100 g of cooked broccoli supplies 129 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Broccoli can be grown in all parts of Australia. It can grow from seeds but is usually grown from seedlings that are planted in late summer or autumn. This vegetable grows as a compact head of florets with side shoots (with smaller florets) growing below the main head.
You should start harvesting your broccoli around 11 weeks (longer if the winter has been very cold) after you have planted out your seedlings. The head of the broccoli should still be tight and compact when picked. If you remove the main head of the broccoli, the plant will start to develop side shoots from the central stalk and these will have smaller florets.
To harvest your broccoli, use a knife to cut the stem of the broccoli about 10 or 15 cm below the head. You need to harvest the stems of your broccoli to stop the plant from going to seed. Once the head of the broccoli flowers, then the plant will go to seed and will stop producing stems.
When selecting broccoli, choose those that have bright blue-green heads and tightly closed clusters of florets. The stalk and stems should be firm and not woody or soft to the touch. Avoid broccoli with yellow or damaged florets.
How to store and keep broccoli
Broccoli can be stored in the crisper section of your fridge. It can keep for up to five days when stored like this but it is best to use broccoli as soon as possible after you purchase it.
How to use
- Use gentle cooking methods for broccoli – steaming and stir-frying helps to maintain the levels of vitamin C.
- Try broccoli with orecchiette (small, ear-shaped pasta) – sauté garlic, anchovies and breadcrumbs and scatter this tasty mix on top of the pasta.
- Try this Asian dish – steam broccoli and douse with oyster sauce, rice vinegar and chilli.
- Scatter freshly grated parmesan cheese on broccoli and bake until golden brown – great served with meat or chicken.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
Content on this website is provided for information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not in any way endorse or support such therapy, service, product or treatment and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. The information and materials contained on this website are not intended to constitute a comprehensive guide concerning all aspects of the therapy, product or treatment described on the website. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions and to ascertain whether the particular therapy, service, product or treatment described on the website is suitable in their circumstances. The State of Victoria and the Department of Health & Human Services shall not bear any liability for reliance by any user on the materials contained on this website.